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There was a great article in the New York Times the day before Inauguration Day talking about the influence of books and reading on Barack Obama.

But no mention was made of the books he read as a child. And it got me to thinking.


Take a listen here to Obama and The Snowy Day.  (Pssst, this is not a fingerplay!) And thanks to Anita Silvey for the history lesson in Keats’s Neighborhood.

PS: Some folks have asked for the “visual” version as well as the above “audio” version.  So here it is:

Did President Obama read The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats when he was a child?

I know I did. And I read it to both my boys. The oldest just voted for the first time this fall–for Obama—who just happens to be black.

The little boy in The Snowy Day just happens to be black too. And just happens to have the distinction of being the first black child ever shown in a full-color children’s picture book.

Obama and I share birth years, 1961, the same year The Snowy Day was published. I don’t think those dates are a coincidence.

I grew up in Atlanta, raised by parents who simply stated throughout my childhood that “the color of a person’s skin doesn’t matter.” We had no long discussions about racism or bigotry or even civil rights that I remember. Just that statement, a fact presented to a child like “It’s raining outside.”

I remember someone reading me The Snowy Day. I remember reading it later to myself. I do not remember noticing anything special about the little boy. I just knew he was having fun in the snow, something we rarely had in Atlanta and never in those vast quantities.

Now fast forward forty-something years. Exactly a year before the election, I happen to read the history of The Snowy Day. And I cried. In the late 60’s and the 70’s, Keats received such harsh criticism concerning The Snowy Day that he quit writing and illustrating children’s books. (He did return to it at the urging of New York City librarian, a librarian who just happened to be black). A person who had grown up facing both poverty and anti-Semitism, Keats simply loved children, loved books, and wanted books to be for everyone—in pictures as well as in words.

One of the New York Times’ book editors wrote the day before the inauguration about the power and importance of books, language, and ideas in the development of Obama’s “voice.” I am not a reporter, and I do not have the means of finding out if, as a child, Obama ever read (or had read to him) The Snowy Day. But I firmly believe that, if he did, that children’s book shaped him deeply too, down to the core, when he could see himself in that little boy in the snow.

What if Obama didn’t read it? It really doesn’t matter. For, I read it, and my children read it, and millions of children over the past forty-eight years have read about Peter and his snowy day.

And I cried again last week. Every time I saw a picture of an inauguration event, I cried thinking about how many millions voted in this past election for a man, who like Peter in The Snowy Day, just happens to be black.

Babette Davis Reeves, MA, is Children and Youth Librarian at Southern Peaks Public Library in Alamosa, Colorado.

I can be reached at 719-587-3065, 719-589-6592 or by email at

Source: Keat’s Neighborhood, An Ezra Jack Keats Treasury, 2002

From the Introduction by Anita Silvey

pp. 8, 10

Cute Dog Eat Doug comic for today. Check your doors! 🙂

This made me smile today! Sometimes 21st century tech gets it right.

If you can’t make the early literacy workshop on Sat. the 24th (or even if you can!), take a listen on Friday the 23rd at 8:30 a.m. to KRZA.  I’ll be talking about the importance of early literacy and what it takes to make it happen–for everyone!

If you are not local, you can listen to KRZA through their stream. Log on to and look for the link just under the house picture (yeah, that really is the station :-)). Or click here.


Need I say more? Friday night the 23rd at 7 p.m., here at Southern Peaks Library in Alamosa, we’ll have a free showing of Wall-E on our big screen. Bring a drink. We’ll have lots of free popcorn!

This is one of the best movies of 2008 and probably better for adults than kids as well as better the 2nd time around.

Here’s this week’s comic from Unshelved.

No matter who you voted for, tomorrow is an historic day, pivotal on many counts in our history and to each of our lives.

Here in Alamosa, I know many of us (myself included) do not have access to TV or cable. Here’s how to watch online.

…at least not the peanut butter snacks.

Peanut butter in jars from the grocery seem to be OK but anything you buy made with peanut butter could contain salmonella. Child care centers and schools should discard any institutional size containers of peanut butter.

I threw my new box of Austin peanut butter crackers away today. 😦

Here’s the story.

Here’s a list of suggested books to read with kids to help and reinforce your “brat-proofing” efforts (see NYT article in brat-proofing post). You’ll notice many are not directly related to manners or impulse control. Many are about feelings.


Why? Because children have to learn about their own feelings before they can imagine others’ feelings. To grow into a healthy human being, one must develop awareness of feelings, be able to label and talk about them, as well as accept them, even the negative ones. And children need adult help with this learning process every step along the way.

When a person begins to understand their own feelings, then they can begin to understand others’. Then empathy and manners make sense.

  • How Are You Peeling? Foods with Moods by Freymann
  • When Sophie Gets Angry by Bang
  • Sometimes I’m Bombaloo by Vail
  • Mean Soup by Everitt
  • The Day Leo Said “I Hate You” by Harris
  • Little Rabbit’s Christmas by Horse
  • The All-I-Ever-Want Christmas Doll by McKissack
  • Four Feet, Two Sandals by Williams
  • Not Afraid of Dogs by Pitzer
  • The Little Bit Scary People by Jenkins
  • Hannah Duck by Yamamura
  • When a Pet Dies by Mr. Rogers
  • Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Rosen
  • Ernest and Celestine by Vincent
  • Emily’s Sharing and Caring Book by Senning
  • How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food by Yolen
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by DiCamillo

And finally, I love the parents in these two:

  • Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild by Fox
  • Fancy Nancy by O’Connor

And the BEST book on discipline (which is another word for brat-proofing) I’ve ever run across; it’s out of print but used copies are available on Amazon. It’s straightforward, simple, short, and covers all the bases.

  • Parents’ Guide to Understanding Discipline: Infancy through Pre-Teen by Grisanti and Balter

Let me know what you think!


Here are two action versions of “Row, row, row your boat.”

I’ll try to make Thursdays “Add a Podcast” Day. 🙂

What happens when our kids aren’t taught manners? When they remain self-centered? When other people exist for no other reason than to please them?

Our kids become brats. And they don’t “just outgrow” it.

Pediatrician Perri Klass has a wonderful article here in the NYT about the importance of teaching children manners.

It’s all about setting limits and learning limits. And limits are a basic, fundamental condition of human existence. You don’t need to start until your child is between 2 and 3 years old but start you must.

The preschool years are the hardest. You’ll have tantrums that force you to leave the store or restaurant or movie. You’ll have tears and maybe even an “I hate you” or two. You’ll have early bedtimes, maybe a few missed meals. It will be inconvenient for you–for now.

But elementary years will become close to smooth–and lessons learned in preschool years make teenage years far more manageable.

I’ll add a book list later of children and adult books that can help with this learning.

Hey, good folks! Remember, you can sign up for my Twitter at Just look for BabetteR and click follow. I’ll let you know what’s happening at the library, what are the best books I’ve found (before they make it to the blog), and what life is like “behind the scenes” at SPPL. It’ll also help me to connect with you on your Twitter.

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Contact Info for Babette

email babette(dot)reeves(at)gmail(dot)com
snail mail
73 State Avenue
Alamosa, CO 81101

Blog with Integrity

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